The purpose of this paper is to highlight a number of issues that impede sub-Saharan Africa's endeavour to achieve a higher degree of industrialization, with a focus on the role of intermediate institutional support systems and instruments in assisting firms. A list of leading issues and an explanation of problems in climbing the ladder of manufacturing value added across selected African countries are followed by case studies of best practice that enabled dynamic firms to thrive in an increasingly competitive environment. The paper contends that an ideal set of support systems and instruments should strengthen linkages and networking, factor market (capital, technology, skills, etc.) and compliance with technical regulations. Selected UNIDO examples of support systems and instruments are furnished with a view to highlighting the role of UNIDO in addressing issues pertaining to investment and technology promotion, small business development, quality and productivity, environmental management, industrial energy efficiency, and industrial governance and interactive policy formulation.